What do you do when you learn that someone you care about is in trouble? Serious trouble. The kind of trouble they can’t hide from. Can’t run from. And can’t ignore.
The kind of trouble where the authorities can only help them so far.
I’ve been recovering of late from a bad knee injury. It’s left me on crutches and throbs mercilessly, despite pain relievers. Hubby’s been good to me… he’s done the grocery shopping, dishes… carries things I can’t fit into the plastic bag slung over a crutch. He’s taken care of our pets, and fixes me breakfast in the morning.
Yep, he’s a great guy.
Despite my blessings, my spirits have been in the toilet all week. The prognosis from the orthopedist left me wallowing in self-pity, crying and praying about how inconvenient this all was for me, at this point in my life.
I have lots of gardening to do. A house that’s getting dirtier by the minute. Writing to complete.
Sitting at my computer bothers my knee. Standing is difficult and exhausting. Lying on either side is painful as well.
My grandiose plans for the summer are shot all to hell.
Like many people of faith, I’ve also felt a lot of self-condemnation for not being stronger in my faith during tough times.
Who was I to cry to God over such a little thing? Especially when every day I see messages on Facebook from friends who are struggling with far greater trials.
I only wish the best for my Facebook friends, but there’s still a disconnect there. I know that sounds awful, but it’s true. You can wish the best for someone and pray for them. Even find their situation creeping into your everyday consciousness, urging you to pray for them some more.
That’s called empathy, and empathy is important. All help we give to others starts with empathy. We are standing on the hillside, looking down at the flood in the valley, concerned for the occupants below.
But when trouble comes to someone who plays a bigger part in your life – someone you’re connected to in ways that are not dependent on Facebook – that’s when you go beyond empathy and find yourself sliding down that hillside, dangerously close to the flood waters yourself.
That’s where I found myself yesterday.
Thoughts of my puny knee problem dissipated in the face of those flood waters, and please, if you are reading this, pray for my friend. (I’m respecting her privacy and not telling you more about her, but God will know who you are praying for).
This is the part where I’m supposed to say that the lesson I learned from all this is to be grateful for my puny knee problem (which, believe me, I now am)… but I’m not going to say that.
Instead, I’m going to tell you that I think we have every right to have self-pity sometimes. Certainly my friend does.
Wallowing doesn’t help, but we need time to deal with the difficult emotions in life. Pain hurts. Physical and emotional. We’re flesh and blood – and whether you agree with this or not – we are ruled by our emotions.
We can garner all our efforts to control our thoughts, our circumstances or outcomes. It matters not one bit. Our emotions are not just extensions of ourselves which we can pluck out and set on a shelf. Hiding them from others or even from ourselves doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Ironically, in a strange twist of fate, self-denial of your emotions seems to give them even more control over you. Like a thief you turn your back on.
Emotions are our world. They are who we are. They are the reason behind the way you act, react, or fail to act at all.
Learning techniques to control your emotions can be helpful, yes. (Dare I point out that religion itself is one of those ways?) But you can’t stop yourself from feeling.
I think God understands we need time to process strong emotion. Time to calm the fears enough to develop a plan.
You can’t think straight and find refuge until you’re able to turn your face and identify your pursuer.
Christianity tells us that God does not condemn us for our weaknesses. Some believe (and some scriptures suggest) that our trials are given to us to test our faith and make us worthy of God. I don’t really buy that. Or maybe I just don’t buy the way it’s used in religious circles.
That implies we have to attain a certain standard before God will accept us. It implies punishment.
Sorry Charlie… but we will never attain that standard. That was the whole point of Christ’s sacrifice. The whole point of Grace. When God looks at us, he see’s us not as ourselves, but as he sees his son. Righteous and pure.
Troubles fall on everyone. Good person or bad, no one is excluded.
Our societal mentality is that people cause their own troubles. I hate this “punish the victim” mentality. Not all of our troubles are brought on by self, or within our power to control. Even those that are, we don’t intentionally do to hurt ourselves.
We are not being punished.
God is not out to get us.
Rather, his love and power is never more available to us then when those flood waters are rising over our heads.
Until we can find that branch to hold onto, to lift us out of our despair and rest on shore, we can call on that power of God. We don’t even have to know how to pray. And we certainly don’t have to apologize for our neediness.
That four letter word? Just look to God and cry… H-E-L-P.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV):
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Romans 8:26 (NIV):
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
I love disaster flicks. Show me a movie where a chunk of humanity is catastrophically destroyed and I’m a happy camper.
Who can forget The Andromeda Strain (epidemic catastrophe). Or Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (extraterrestrial copy machines).
Armageddon, an asteroid catastrophe starring Bruce Willis as the over-protective father of Liv Tyler (who’s caught doing “the nasty” with Ben Affleck). Or OutBreak, where the dynamic duo of Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo battle both an epidemic AND a government cover-up.
Then there’s Deep Impact (Tea Leoni, Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman), desperately trying to keep themselves and others from getting wiped out by a comet.
Some disaster flicks I watch again and again, until I can recite the lines by heart. It doesn’t hurt if there’s one of my favorite Hollywood hunks in the flick, either.
I’d be a stand-in any day of the week for Linda Hamilton, who plays the love interest to Pierce Brosnan in Dante’s Peak (a nasty volcano eruption).
Or invite me to join the all-star cast in the world’s tallest building, The Towering Inferno. Yeah, as you can tell by the title it’s the hot spot in town. Who wouldn’t want to be rescued by Paul Newman or Steve McQueen?
Another all-star cast movie, Independence Day, has one of the best scenes Bill Pullman ever did. Will Smith and Jeff Goldlblum (who I’m totally enamored with) were off blowing up the invading alien headquarters when Pullman gave his rousing speech to the few remaining fighter pilots. What a guy.
Whether it be old flicks (1958’s The Blob – McQueen’s first leading role), or new (Contagion – 2011), I watch them all.
I’m obviously not alone in my love of disaster flicks, else there wouldn’t be so many.
One of the blogs I follow, gracerellie.wordpress.com, is written by a woman who is making a career out of writing about disasters, (the real ones, not Hollywood versions). Her blog is relatively new (meaning, active for less than 5 years), and yet, in the small amount of time she’s been blogging, she’s developed a healthy following.
Why is that? What is it about disasters that we love?
My hubby doesn’t particularly care for them. He watches them with me from time to time because he knows I love them, but he finds them too violent for his tastes. He thinks watching scads of people in dire situations, many of them dying, is looking at the negative side of life.
He says we should love people, not kill them off in movies. He wonders if the reason we watch disasters is because, deep down, we just don’t like each other.
I disagree with him on this point.
I seriously have no desire to wipe out my fellow (wo)man. Sometimes I might feel like I do, but when push comes to shove, I don’t want to see harm come to any of them. I know they’re just doing the best they can and trying to get by, just like me. We’re just people, after all.
No, I think the reason we love disaster flicks is because it helps to ease the pain of life’s “helplessness”.
Think about it.
Don’t most disaster flicks involve forces outside of our control? Don’t we all have those feelings of anger over the helplessness we feel in life? Over situations, circumstances, and other people’s actions?
In disaster flicks there’s tidal waves, earthquakes, twisters, asteroids, epidemics, alien invasions, volcanoes, climate change, fire, building collapses, etc. None of these things are in your control!
Not only that, but in disaster flicks, the main characters are usually trying to save as many other people as possible. They may not do it in the best way (for example, deciding who will and will not be in the rescue ships of 2012), but they are still trying to save each other as well as themselves.
Disaster flicks have another thing in common… they almost always end on a positive note.
New research is achieved in Twister (Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton), which allows for earlier tornado warnings for communities. Humanity – or what’s left of it – is still saved from extinction (The Terminator movies). And in Knowing, the aliens at the end are actually friendly… they save many of our children from the solar flare that destroys the rest of mankind, and re-start humanity on another planet.
Thing is… in life there is great joy… but also great difficulty. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your circumstances, at times, life will kick you upside the head and throw you in a tailspin.
The world is full of broken people.
We need to see people survive the impossible. Disaster movies give us hope. They give us heroes.
I think God understands this need to see a conquering of the uncontrollable. The bible, certainly, is full of disasters. It’s also full of God’s rescue for the afflicted. It’s the original disaster book, pre-digital. The darkness of strife and the beautiful dawn of overcoming, these are major themes in our religious beliefs.
Oh, and for the record, my all-time favorite disaster flick?
The Day After Tomorrow, a climate change disaster starring Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal. Except for the political references, it’s very similar to a book I’ve been a fan of for years – The Sixth Winter -written by John Gribbin and Douglas Orgill back in the early 80’s.
If you get a chance, check this book out from your local library. It’s a good ice age disaster that was written before all the political positions got involved in the science of climate change.
Just good, cold fun!
Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. Psalm 139:12
Walter Matthau made a movie in 1967 called A Guide For The Married Man. He played Paul Manning, a businessman who one day realizes that his friend and neighbor, Ed (played by Robert Morse), has been repeatedly cheating on his wife. Paul talks to Ed about this and Ed takes it upon himself to “educate” Paul in the art of cheating, without getting caught.
Ed has no guilt whatsoever over his affairs. He’s a bad influence on Paul, who pretty soon starts noticing all the pretty women and opportunities around him, including a classy, beautiful woman who works in his office. As the movie progresses, Paul begins to follow Ed’s advice and lays the groundwork for his first extra-marital affair.
If you love the old bedroom farce comedies, you’ll want to see this movie. In which case, don’t read the next sentence… Spoiler Alert: at the end, Paul’s conscience keeps him from following through, Ed does get caught by a private detective his wife hired, and Paul rushes home to his loving wife and never thinks of cheating again.
I saw this movie on the classic movie channel during a particularly difficult stretch in my marriage. I loved my husband, but all we did was fight.
We argued about everything, nothing was too inconsequential. The more we fought, the easier it was to lose our tempers the next time. Each round of arguments came faster until finally, it seemed we couldn’t communicate in any other way.
I began to dislike him – strongly – and everything he did grated on my nerves. The way he played with his napkin, the habit he had of leaving the milk out, even the sound of his voice irritated me. I began to wonder what life would be like if I left my marriage.
What led to this sorry state in our relationship I don’t remember. I think I didn’t know even then; if you had asked me, I probably would’ve just listed my current grievances.
Anger is like that. You forget the trigger and concentrate on the wound. Anyway, this is when I saw Walter Matthau’s movie.
In the movie, Paul is advised by Ed to start fights with his wife, thus giving him an excuse to leave the house (wherein he can then go and meet his mistress without his wife suspecting the real reason he’s left home for the evening). So Paul starts to build a pattern of arguing with his wife, over every little thing.
Mystified, his wife seeks professional counsel. The counselor tells the wife not to argue. No matter what Paul says or what fight he tries to start, (the counselor advises) don’t do it.
That night the wife makes a martini for Paul (my memory is a bit fuzzy in this part, but you’ll get the gist). Paul barks at her that she should know he’d rather have a Manhattan. Instead of arguing, the wife gets her husband a Manhattan. Paul then complains about the Manhattan. The rest of the scene is along the same lines, with Paul trying to argue and his wife responding by being congenial. Paul’s unable to leave that night, and his plans are stymied.
I saw this scene and thought it made sense. Hubby and I had a pattern of fighting, and this seemed a way to break that pattern. So I followed the movie’s advice and stopped arguing.
I just stopped.
If necessary, I would leave the room, go to the bathroom, take a walk… whatever. But I broke the pattern. I’d like to tell you it worked instantaneously, but in truth it took a few weeks of teeth-gritting determination on my part.
It did work though. Our habit of fighting gave way to “egg-shell walking”. Which regained us respect for each other. Which then turned to “like”, and finally back to Love. I’m not exaggerating when I say that breaking that pattern turned our marriage from a bitter pill to a blessed union. We had our own love affair.
Nowadays, biophysicists tell us that our emotions create chemical pathways in our brain that, when repeated, become bigger and stronger, causing us to re-create and add more triggers that will lead us to those pathways.
In other words, we become addicted to our emotions.
We find more and more ways to be angry, sad, etc. Whatever our addictive emotion, we seek it out.
That certainly explains why Hubby and I couldn’t stop fighting. It also explains why breaking the pattern worked. You have to recognize and intentionally break those destructive neural pathways and replace them with new patterns.
Easier said than done.
God had this figured out a long time ago, when he advised us to recognize our anger, don’t ignore it, but also do not let it control you. Instead, shine His light on the subject, ask for his help, and allow Him to help you break that pattern.
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. Ephesians 4:26-27
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. 1 John 1:7
I wasn’t a Christian at the time Hubby and I were in our destructive pattern. But God knows us – past, present, and future – and sometimes uses the most unlikely sources to bring His light into our lives and heal our wounds.
I’ve told others this story, and marriages were mended for at least two other couples that I know of, all because of that silly little movie. I wonder, is Walter Matthau sitting in heaven right now, himself amazed?
I’m not implying that all marriage problems can be fixed by this story. Far from it. Certainly there are some marriages that shouldn’t be. I’m no marriage counselor and I don’t claim to be.
But God is. And apparently, so was Walter Matthau.
My lawn guy showed up today and gave my lawn its first cut. When he cut my grass, he also cut all the crocus and squill growing in a big patch of the lawn.
I have multitudes of little bulbs in my garden beds and many hundreds more planted in the lawn. Thanks to the hard winter we just had, not many came up this year. I suspect they died. Most of the ones that made it don’t have blooms. I was just happy to see that some survived.
Only a quarter or less of my usual made it. Which for me means the lawn man mowed down something like 200 little plants.
The worst part about it is that bulbous plants use their foliage to photosynthesize and store that energy inside their bulb. That stored energy is what they use for all their life functions. It takes a tremendous amount of energy for a plant to bloom. Bulbs use their stored energy from the year before to come up and bloom the following spring. Then they extend their foliage even further after the bloom dies, replenishing their stores in their bulb, to tide them over until the next year. This is why we’re always advised to not cut the foliage off of our daffodils and such, but let them die back naturally. They’re storing energy.
My crocus were bloomless because they used too much of their stored energy just to survive our brutal winter. They didn’t have enough energy to bloom.
It was too cold, too long – the ground was too frozen, too deep – and most of them didn’t have enough stored energy to make it through. Those that did, really needed lots of energy gathering time this spring, if they had any hope of living through next winter and perhaps blooming and procreating next year.
I was willing to give them this time, letting them grow for weeks on end despite the grass surrounding them. My lawn man was not.
What will happen to them now? Even if they bounce back and grow some more, and the lawn man doesn’t mow them again (if I have to lie out there to prevent it, you better believe he won’t!), will they store enough to live through next winter? Who can tell? Only God knows that answer.
I went outside and cried over the massacre. The lawn man saw me and was very apologetic. I’d told him not to cut there and he had misunderstood.
To his credit, I realize he’s just trying to get a jump on the season, to make a living. Everyone’s got to make a living. If you ask me, his coming this early (when clearly no-one else is cutting their grass yet) is an act of greed. But I can’t really blame him for being overly opportunistic. It’s not like I’m immune to being opportunistic myself. Human nature being what it is.
No, I blame myself. You can say I’m making too much of it, but anyone that knows me is aware of my personal attachment to plants. I am not ashamed of my belief in their little souls! To me, they are every bit as much a part of the intelligent web of life as you and I are. And I feel like I let my little friends down. I didn’t watch the lawn man closely enough, or didn’t explain to him in terms he could understand (he doesn’t know what crocus foliage is, apparently).
My crying had as much to do with sorrow for myself as for my crocus. Crocus, you see, is my favorite flower. I wait eleven months every year to see them bloom for a few short weeks. I love to get up close and watch the bees hover in the tiny flowers. I even love their bare foliage. So, naturally, I have a stronger than normal attachment to these little plants. Of all the flowers in my garden, they are my most beloved.
I ran inside, threw myself on my bed, and had a good, long cry over the cut crocus. A friend of mine was unlucky enough to call me at the tail end of my crisis. She got an earful of my tears. Lucky her.
She also advised me to go back outside and tell my crocus (what was left of them) how I felt. Make amends, and let them know I loved them. So I did. It was good advice. A bit of closure.
I’m still sniffing as I write this, four hours after the fact. Probably will be wiping my tears off and on all evening. I prayed to God to save His little plants. I like to think he feels for all of his creation. Right down to the tiniest little crocus.
I look outside my window, and I can see storm clouds gathering, and the sound of thunder speaks from a distance. Perhaps God is crying too.
Aside from God, Hubby is the light of my life. He’s entertaining, lovable, kind, and intelligent. I think he’s just about perfect for me. But he’s also plain weird!
Are all guys like him? Or is it just mine? Since I grew up in a household of all women (Dad excluded… but he’s Dad, he doesn’t count, does he?), I really can’t say with any certainty that Hubby is the typical example of manhood. If he is, then we women must all be having a great laugh in the locker room, exchanging the funny antics that our devoted others have done.
Here’s some facts to back up my opinion:
We both made “bucket lists” one day. I sweated over mine. I listed things like – financial gains, see Switzerland, write another book, organize my whole house, learn another language, travel west with my sisters and see the redwood trees, and take another cruise.
Hubby sat and thought for quite a while before finally completing his very short bucket list:
1) Wash and wax car and take pictures of her.
2) Eat more tapioca pudding.
Then there were his 2013 Resolutions (which I recently found while cleaning files):
1) Cut down my lying to my wife by 33.333%, and
2) Spend my loose change (coins).
Now, it was my suggestion that he try to stop lying to me by at least a third, but he didn’t stop there…. at thebottom of his list he put an asterisk! It said, “Note: Resolutions are subject to change without notice.”
Another story… One night, Hubby and I were playing cards with the neighbor lady from next door. It was just the three of us and we were playing Rummy 500. If you’ve ever played Rummy 500, you know the object of the game is to keep playing hands until someone reaches the winning score, which is 500.
This particular night we started the game late, so Hubby, neighbor and I decided that we would each keep our own scores, but quit when someone reached 300. We each had a little piece of paper that we used and – verbally – compared our totals after each hand. The game ended when Hubby announced that he had won. It was a fun game and we all had a good time, so there were no hard feelings or anything, but when I collected the pieces of paper from everyone I couldn’t believe what his score card looked like. The neighbors score card and mine looked much the same. Here is my score card:
Here is Hubby’s:
Now I ask you, how does he even know he won? It was hilarious, and we all got a good laugh out of it.
I have a friend who once told me this story about her husband, which would kind of bear out my theory about the locker room antic exchange:
Her husband went up on the roof to clean something off. Once he was done, he didn’t have the nerve to come back down the ladder, so he sat down on the edge of the roof and called for her. She came out, appraised the situation and asked what she could do to help.
“Get me a beer,” he said.
So my friend went and fetched him a beer. She went far enough up the ladder to hand it to him, then came back down and watched him drink it.
He said, “I think I need another one.”
So my friend fetched him a second beer and watched him drink that. Then her husband sat there for a bit, and finally said, “I think I can do it now.” And down the ladder he came.
This was the same husband that accidentally nailed himself shut in the attic one day, and then yelled for her to hurry and get the neighbor to help him get out, because he had to go to the bathroom. (Just for the record… this friend is okay with the sharing of this story).
Hubby is such an entertaining part of my life that I felt he deserved an award of some kind. So for Valentine’s Day this year, I agreed to let him post the picture of his first girlfriend on our fridge. Her name was Sabrina. Here is her picture:
What about all of you? Are there any women out there anxious to share some funny antics that their husbands have done?
Oh yeah, and about that 33.333%. I am happy to report that Hubby has kept that resolution. Sort of. He now lies to me, gets a funny look on his face (because he knows I know he’s lying), and then changes his story to the truth.
Men. Gotta love ’em.
Valentine’s Day has been getting a lot of blog interest this week, much of it sweet and sentimental, but not all of it is happy. Lot’s of V-Day haters out there, lots of disillusioned couples. V-Day can be stressful for many, it seems.
One of the blogs I follow is written by a young woman who re-posted some previous V-Day articles she’s written. The raw emotion of it lead me to read some of her previous posts and, to summarize, her husband had (in not-too-previous times) sent a love note of sorts to his ex-girlfriend through Facebook. Apparently, no other contact (meaning physical) has come of it and the ex-girlfriend has made it clear she’s no longer interested. But he got caught (the idiot), by forgetting to sign off his account before leaving his computer.
Well, the good news is, they’ve gotten through the worst of it. The bad news is, the pain he’s caused his wife is all online, for anyone to read. Anyone, meaning me, of course.
Reading the bleeding pain of this young woman, and probably being a bit sympathetic to the young man as well (his distressed emotions were also apparent), brought home to me the reality of what it’s like to be married in this day and age of love online.
Kids (please forgive me for sounding old here, by referring to anyone younger than 40 as “kids”), but kids today live in a world that my generation never had to. They live public. Their world is broadcast “live”.
Those black words printed on screen or comments on Facebook aren’t necessarily “real” to us oldsters, we don’t automatically think of them as real life. We know better. Or, at least, we think we do. But to the kids, that IS real life, and rightly so that they should feel that way. Just as we were raised to see things Pre-Facebook, they were raised with their lives public from the very beginning. Or at least, in this young woman’s case, early enough in their brief time here to have encrusted a solid weight of importance on their shoulders.
What a horrible burden to bear. For not only are romances begun online, but the whole of their relationship as well. How many couples meet online? How many videos are posted of extravagant, or funny weddings? Morning sickness is tweeted, and marital infidelity is shared among all the victims friends, relatives, and perfect strangers. Like me. I’m a perfect stranger. (Well, not so perfect).
The thing is, it’s not just marriage that is online in this crazed, electronic madness we call social media…. the whole messy divorce happens online as well.
As anyone who’s been married longer than 10 years can tell you, the reason very old, married couples frequently look like life-long soul mates, isn’t because they’ve had 60 years of wedded bliss. It’s because they’ve had 60 years! Those first years of marriage are a bitch for a lot of couples. The husband (or wife) still having issues with ex’s isn’t something new, and infidelity didn’t originate on Facebook. Hanky-panky has been around before God wiped out most of mankind with the great flood. Pretty much no-sooner than there were more than two people on this earth, someone’s eyes started to wander, and gossip became the mainstay of people’s entertainment from the moment it began. Albeit, the world was a smaller place then (John Henry messing around with the mayor’s daughter had a smaller audience), but the problems existed even then.
Choosing to live with one man/woman for the rest of your life is a hard thing to do! That’s why doing it (over and over for 60 years) is how you get better at it. You get to a point where you learn to adjust to each other, ride the bumps, and hold on for dear life through the darkness. Depend on each other. Developing trust.
Practice really does help.
Some people call this “settling”. They are wrong. There is no deeper love than the one that develops though tolerance, and need, and forgiveness. Through life.
In the case of my young couple, as I write this, the wife has developed some health issues (also online) which seems to have drawn her and her husband closer. They have been married for only a few years. They have many, many hills and valley’s ahead of them, but I have hope. From what I’ve read so far, they’re committed to making it work. They’ve put their commitment to each other ahead of their wounds, wondering if the band aid of dedication will be able to heal their pierced bond.
I think they can do it. Certainly it seems that I’ll be able to find out, simply by signing in to my computer. I thank God that my marriage began in a smaller world.
To this couple I say: Hang in there. Keep fighting for love. And when those dark, scary nights envelop you, and the fear of not making it looms in your mind, remember that old cliché about how it’s always darkest before the dawn? That’s not just a cliché. That’s a promise from God.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. (Psalm 5:3)